Is morality a bad thing?

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piwakawaka42
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Is morality a bad thing?

Postby piwakawaka42 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:53 pm UTC

This sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm talking about the concept of morality here. Calling someone evil is a great way to avoid further reasoned discussion, and gets into 'he is!' "No, he is" playground-type taunting. By contrast, in the absence of the concept of morality, a slightly more mature discussion should be possible: "I think society should look like this, and this code of laws should help achieve it". What do you guys think?
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Роберт » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:13 pm UTC

piwakawaka42 wrote:This sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm talking about the concept of morality here. Calling someone evil is a great way to avoid further reasoned discussion, and gets into 'he is!' "No, he is" playground-type taunting. By contrast, in the absence of the concept of morality, a slightly more mature discussion should be possible: "I think society should look like this, and this code of laws should help achieve it". What do you guys think?

Mature discussions are good, but I don't think you moved away from morality.
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:16 pm UTC

piwakawaka42 wrote:This sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm talking about the concept of morality here. Calling someone evil is a great way to avoid further reasoned discussion, and gets into 'he is!' "No, he is" playground-type taunting. By contrast, in the absence of the concept of morality, a slightly more mature discussion should be possible: "I think society should look like this, and this code of laws should help achieve it". What do you guys think?


How do you decide what society should look like?

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:17 pm UTC

See, the word "should" implies morality. How do you decide how a thing "should" be in the absence of some kind of moral structure?
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby pyronius » Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:41 pm UTC

not to get too uppity here but...

I read Beyond good and evil by Nietzsche a while back and thoroughly agreed with a large portion of it though he was rather full of himself. it deals with the issue of morality in a number of ways. one of my favorite bits which might be somewhat applied to all questions concerning morality was regarding the value of the truth. in essence he had beforehand stated a decent argument for the absurdity of human morality as a whole and ended with (to paraphrase in extreme amounts) whether "moral" or not an action that makes people happy may be the best choice. in that regard the belief that the truth is necessarily morally ideal would often be incorrect. someone who is happy being lied to is in a better state than someone who is unhappy being told the truth. the general understanding people have is that the truth is inherently valuable, but all you should ever really strive for is happiness and sometimes lies make people happier than the truth. thus the truth is not inherently valuable.

there were also arguments concerning the church and religion as a whole (a widely recognized "moral" institution) which he basically believed had once served a purpose by lying to people in order to form a stronger community but had long since served its purpose and needed to be dismantled. their notion of morality and the lies they used no longer served any purpose beyond forcing life into an institution that should otherwise be dead. in essence morality as we often understand it today is merely the dying gasp of an ancient organizational structure well past its prime.

make of that what you want. on the whole the idea i was trying to impart is that morality needs to be defined before you can say whether its good or bad. current religious morality is generally not of use and therefore bad. happiness is good.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:09 am UTC

piwakawaka42 wrote:morality

piwakawaka42 wrote:Calling someone evil
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Dopefish » Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:33 am UTC

What does "bad" mean in the absence of morality?

Depending on how you want to define 'good' and 'bad', it could quite easily be the case that a world without morals is 'better' than one with.

People are terribly inefficient at most things compared to computers and the like, so killing off mankind in favour of robots in the name of efficiency could be a 'good' thing (which is explored in a number of movies).

Ever definitions of good and bad based on some sort of maximum happiness can lead to situations that are probably not what you might think of as being 'good'. SMBC did a comic related to this.

If we opt for something that's based on individual whims without regard for others, you either end up with a bunch of prissoners dillemma type situations, or things going to crap pretty quickly as we all just kill each other over petty things.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Nem » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:15 am UTC

Under certain interpretations saying 'evil' really is just a way of expressing a general dislike of something. And some moral theories don't even have a strictly analogous concept of evil. Some of them just start off 'we agree that peace and love and so on are super-awesome, right? Well, here's how to get more of those things....'

Outside of academia and the more nit-picky areas of the internet I don't recall the evil defence coming up very often to begin with.

I suppose the underlying argument here is that morality tends to be dogmatic. To which I can only respond that people have complex wants and needs, which don't tend to fall well into line with any particular dogma. In my experience, the majority of moral debate - outside of the issue of how best to implement a given desire - is based around trading those things off against each other rather than subscribing to some overarching framework which labels things good and evil.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Dopefish » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:21 am UTC

Nem wrote:Outside of academia and the more nit-picky areas of the internet I don't recall the evil defence coming up very often to begin with.


The Hitler defence is pretty common in the other parts. This of course doesn't refer to a rhetoric style by the man, nor a miltary strategy, but rather simply dismissing an opponents views because they are in fact Hitler (which is probably meant as implicitly saying "you're evil").

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Pjotr » Sat Jun 30, 2012 10:40 am UTC

The question is pointless. Morality is inescapable. Every person has a sense of what is right or wrong (warped as it may be in some cases). All societies I can think of decide what the communal sense of right and wrong should be based on majority vote (though not every member of the community may get a vote).
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby curtis95112 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:08 pm UTC

And sometimes more than everyone votes.

To OP: It's not morality per se, but people not knowing how to have reasoned discussions. Morality is but an easy thing to latch onto to "prove" your opponent wrong. Without morality, people will resort to other methods.
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Bsob » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:22 pm UTC

If you want to kill poorly executed discussions that devolve into name calling; it would be easier and more effective to just destroy the internet that it would be to get rid of morality.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Twistar » Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:10 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
piwakawaka42 wrote:morality

piwakawaka42 wrote:Calling someone evil

Maybe you're shooting for a world without Ad hominem argumentation. Or maybe just a world with smarter people.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby curtis95112 » Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:31 pm UTC

Twistar wrote: Or maybe just a world with smarter people.


No. Not smarter people. Better trained people. Being able to argue coherently is a learned skill that has less to do with intelligence than with training.
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
Роберт wrote:Sure, but at least they hit the intended target that time.

Well, if you shoot enough people, you're bound to get the right one eventually.

Thats the best description of the USA ever.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:00 pm UTC

piwakawaka42 wrote:This sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm talking about the concept of morality here. Calling someone evil is a great way to avoid further reasoned discussion, and gets into 'he is!' "No, he is" playground-type taunting. By contrast, in the absence of the concept of morality, a slightly more mature discussion should be possible: "I think society should look like this, and this code of laws should help achieve it". What do you guys think?
Reasoned discussions are a function of how reasonable people may be. Some people are reasonable some of the time but no one is reasonable all of the time. And reason can leave anyone without their consent if they are pushed correctly.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Bad Kitty » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:17 am UTC

piwakawaka42 wrote:This sounds crazy, but hear me out. I'm talking about the concept of morality here. Calling someone evil is a great way to avoid further reasoned discussion, and gets into 'he is!' "No, he is" playground-type taunting. By contrast, in the absence of the concept of morality, a slightly more mature discussion should be possible: "I think society should look like this, and this code of laws should help achieve it". What do you guys think?

I do think it's possible to have reasoned discussions without ascribing a moral value to all things, but very often peoples' individual moral values colour the responses they give to certain arguments. I think in this case it is a good thing for a person to argue that something is immoral (or a positive thing) if they are able to back it up with an actual reason, rather than just blindly following accepted beliefs without questioning them. This then leads on to arguments about whether "group morality" i.e. that of a society, collectively, is a healthy thing or not, and how an individual is viewed by a society if their moral values are extremely different from the rest of the population. This can lead to exclusion or ridicule by the rest of a group - just because one person is different from the rest doesn't mean that they are wrong. I think that this is partly what you were getting at in your original post. From a personal viewpoint, I think that it would be a good thing if more social issues were discussed dispassionately; but this view stems from my own moral belief that proven facts and scientific rigour provide more benefits for a society than superstition and sentimentality. So when do we truly consider that we are discussing something without morals? I'm not sure that it's ever completely possible.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby sam_i_am » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:25 pm UTC

How can Morality be a bad thing. If there's no morality to define good from bad?

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby schmiggen » Sun Jul 15, 2012 5:44 am UTC

My approach to morality has always been somewhat... algorithmic? mathematical?

I try to frame "what should person A do?" questions as "supposing person A has goals(A), what is the most efficient set of actions that person A can take in order to cause goals(A) to obtain?", always being sure to include any implicit goals (to the extent you can imagine or recall them) like "without causing unnecessary harm" or whatever.

In some sense this is a way of discussing "moral topics" without invoking morals directly, but any results you achieve in this way will be useless until you actually do invoke some kind of moral code (or, alternatively phrased, some kind of set of accepted goals).
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Twistar » Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:39 am UTC

schmiggen wrote:My approach to morality has always been somewhat... algorithmic? mathematical?

I try to frame "what should person A do?" questions as "supposing person A has goals(A), what is the most efficient set of actions that person A can take in order to cause goals(A) to obtain?", always being sure to include any implicit goals (to the extent you can imagine or recall them) like "without causing unnecessary harm" or whatever.

In some sense this is a way of discussing "moral topics" without invoking morals directly, but any results you achieve in this way will be useless until you actually do invoke some kind of moral code (or, alternatively phrased, some kind of set of accepted goals).


As I understand it, morality is the study of setting the goals, ethics is answering the question "what should a person do to achieve (or stay in line with) those goals."

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby capefeather » Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:49 am UTC

Yeah, this is less about morality and more about pushing personal morality on others. Generalized, it's about arguing a point of contention as "common sense". When simplified to this form, it's easy to see that this is a very dishonest and nonsensical argument. If it were common sense (at least, relative to the people involved in the discussion), you wouldn't have to invoke common sense!

Having a sense of "common sense" has its uses. We can't be bogged down analyzing every aspect of our lives; efficiency can often lead to making fewer mistakes than analyzing everything. However, it's a double-edged sword, as people will stubbornly cling onto absurd notions. As for morality itself, I think that there is no "correct" moral system, otherwise everyone who looked at it with any amount of care would agree with it. Thus, it's silly to try to enforce any specific moral code on other people. I think that, when talking about morality, we should go deep down into our most fundamental desires. When we're faced with "people X want to commit genocide on people Y" versus "people X want to have peace and security" and "people X would prefer not to kill people unnecessarily", the last two are more "fundamental" than the first, which contradicts them. I'm sorry for the crude/terrible example but eh.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby An Enraged Platypus » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:06 pm UTC

Your original post is somewhat confused about the terms you're using and what they mean, and what morality and ethics are. The etymology of ethics leads us to "ethos", or way of life; ethics started out as the science of determining how to live one's life. Any broad-ranging ethical textbook that takes virtue ethics seriously will tell you that ethics was, pre-enlightenment, exactly the kind of procedure you describe where we say the best possible human culture or humans does/do X, so let's all do X. Alasdair MacIntyre's work is very good on these kinds of issues; he's the most famous ethicist working along these lines in the recent past and today. I'm sure you'll appreciate "After Virtue". Morality, on the other hand, generally refers to a code of conduct or way certain people go about things; it does not encompass calling people "good" or "evil". This brief article is very good: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/.

The TL;DR has already been posted.
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piwakawaka42 wrote:morality

piwakawaka42 wrote:Calling someone evil
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Metaphysician » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:02 pm UTC

I think the human race has evolved to such a point that morality is a necessary aspect of evolution. We're so good at killing each other that without some sort of morality we'd wipe out the entire race pretty quickly. Now, whether that moral system should be humanist, religious, a mixture, or something else entirely is up for debate. But I'm pretty sure that at this point, morality is necessary for the survival of the human race.
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby TranquilFury » Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:38 am UTC

Define "bad" without using morality?

Well whether ANYTHING is good or bad depends on the goal with which you determine it's value. Any set of rules or guidelines, morality included, can sometimes be useful, but will never be universally optimal. What matters is acting competently on your most fundamental motivations.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Philosophish » Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:03 pm UTC

Just replace every judgement with a hypothetical imperative (if ... , then ... - structure)

"X should be the case" is a judgement of value, meaning that you value X over anything non-X, implying a moral superiority. However, stating that "If we'd like Y to be the case, then X should be the case" turns the whole moral part into a rational weighing of options.

for instance:

"killing is bad" - this is a categorical imperative, since it portrays some transcendent objectivity which we should all bow to without any reasoning. "killing is bad" is just as meaningful as "I dislike killing". Neither are propositions (statements that are either true or false) nor are they falsifiable, even if they would be inherently true. They're simply emotive. They show a preference, a sense of 'taste', let's call it.

So instead of claiming such an unstable statement, I prefer to think in ways of the Hyp. Imp. I suggested in the first line of my post; "if you do not want any negative consequences from society, or repercussions from agressive gang members, or ... , then do not kill" since it is very likely that you will get caught or that there will be a reaction of some kind, which you most likely won't prefer.

This also sideswipes the problem of exceptions, the problem of when we do or do not allow X. We are allowed to kill in self defense, but only because the other party wasn't allowed to kill in the first place and many more complicated reasons. If you reason in by the Hyp. Imp. -structure, you simply get something similar to "If you do not want to go to jail, then don't kill, unless your child is in danger of being killed."

this creates clear boundaries, without implying any transcendent objectivity ("morality") and without harming anyone who believes in such nonsense (literally speaking - no offence intended).

Ideally speaking, of course, since the whole topic is in such a sense. Practically, this would be more troublesome than counting every grain of sand on earth.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:13 am UTC

Philosophish wrote:"killing is bad" - this is a categorical imperative, since it portrays some transcendent objectivity which we should all bow to without any reasoning. "killing is bad" is just as meaningful as "I dislike killing". Neither are propositions (statements that are either true or false) nor are they falsifiable, even if they would be inherently true. They're simply emotive. They show a preference, a sense of 'taste', let's call it.

This is a thicket of nonstandard terminology, unargued assertions and questionable inferences.

First of all, it's not really right to say that "Killing is bad" is an imperative, since it doesn't tell you to do anything. If I can kill someone and save five people from being killed, does the principle "Killing is bad" tell me that I should do it or that I shouldn't? Well, it really doesn't: we have to work out whether permissibility is a matter of weighing total badness, or considering the badness of the action which we in particular intend to take, or perhaps some other option. The imperative, though, is not the judgment "Killing is bad."

Second, whether or not there is some "transcendent objectivity" telling us not to kill people, it's not right to say that a categorical imperative portrays a command to which we should bow "without any reasoning." The whole point of a categorical imperative — what makes it an imperative — is that it is an "objective principle," an "objective law of reason to a will" (Groundwork 4:413). You may certainly deny that there is such a thing as a categorical imperative, such a thing as an objective law of reason, but if anything pretends to that throne then it pretends to a claim of rationality.

Then we get to the unargued stuff. Yes, there is a position to the affect that "Killing is bad" is not a proposition, but an expression of taste. But if you're going to whip it out as a major component of your post, it would make sense to try to convince people that that position is right. After all, without worrying for a moment about whether particular moral views are right, it looks like some moral views are wrong. For example, when someone says that it is wrong to use a condom, I want to say that they don't just have an emotional attachment that I don't have, but that they're making a mistake. They've fucked something up. That view doesn't look consistent with the view that moral claims cannot be false, so you probably think I'm wrong. In that case, show me why.

You also mention falsifiability. I don't know if you mean to say by this that you think a claim cannot be a proposition if it is not falsifiable (and you probably mean empirically falsifiable). But if that is the case, then you're taking an extremely controversial position, one that's pretty much exclusively held on Internet forums and pretty much universally not held in professional philosophy. (The closest thing there is probably Popper's claim that falsifiability demarcates the division between science and pseudoscience, but most philosophers also think that view is deeply flawed.) Again you don't argue for this claim. And I should also note that, if it does hold, that poses a problem for your own claims about instrumental rationality: suppose someone, probably a Humean, wants to deny that wanting to mesh with society gives me a reason not to kill people. Is it conceivable that she could give empirical evidence for her view?

I also can't make sense of your claim that something is not a proposition or falsifiable "even if [it] would be inherently true." Surely something that is inherently true would be a proposition. Or maybe that qualifier only attaches to the word "falsifiable"? But then what does it matter if an inherently true claim is falsifiable? You don't need to falsify it — it's true!

Philosophish wrote:If you reason in by the Hyp. Imp. -structure, you simply get something similar to "If you do not want to go to jail, then don't kill, unless your child is in danger of being killed."

What, do you think that categorical imperatives can't make exceptions? Is it because exceptions use words like "if" and "unless"? That's a misconception, albeit a common one. "The categorical imperative would be that [imperative] which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself, without reference to another end" (G 4:414). What makes an imperative hypothetical is that its applicability depends on some project of the agent; "If you want to live, then drink water" is hypothetical because its applicability depends on what I want to do, but not just because it contains the word "if." "If you want to kill someone, then seek counseling" would be, at least putatively, a categorical imperative. And so would "Don't kill unless your child is in danger of being killed."
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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Vince_Right » Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:26 am UTC

Pjotr wrote:The question is pointless. Morality is inescapable. Every person has a sense of what is right or wrong (warped as it may be in some cases). ...
For me it is simply about choice, how do you choose between options, if you choose you judge what is best, that judgement is based on morality.
curtis95112 wrote:
Twistar wrote: Or maybe just a world with smarter people.
No. Not smarter people. Better trained people. Being able to argue coherently is a learned skill that has less to do with intelligence than with training.
We have arrived at the Ubermensch theory, God is dead, so people with the capability to reason have to take over.
capefeather wrote:Yeah, this is less about morality and more about pushing personal morality on others. Generalized, it's about arguing a point of contention as "common sense". When simplified to this form, it's easy to see that this is a very dishonest and nonsensical argument. If it were common sense (at least, relative to the people involved in the discussion), you wouldn't have to invoke common sense!
+1 bounded rationality willl make you will have to fall back on some standards, but most of all when possible: Think! It is the right of everyone to have their culture (see below), do not push your culture.
capefeather wrote:... As for morality itself, I think that there is no "correct" moral system, otherwise everyone who looked at it with any amount of care would agree with it.
This should be discussed further in the "do Natural Rights exist" thread.
In short, I believe there are many "correct" moral systems: A corect moral system is a system that respects Natural Rights.
=> If there are no "Natural Rights." this makes that all Morals are correct, since they are just social constructs that do not infringe any rights, they become the rights.
=> If there are "Natural Rights.", Hitler, Stalin etc had Moral systems that were incorrect since they did infringe rights.
Outside of this fixed part, you might have other things in your moral, "Objective to reach maximum personal wealth", "Objective to help the community", etc... they are preferences, how you make choices, it is your culture, they do not make your moral correct or incorrect.
Philosophish wrote:Just replace every judgement with a hypothetical imperative (if ... , then ... - structure)
"X should be the case" is a judgement of value, meaning that you value X over anything non-X, implying a moral superiority. However, stating that "If we'd like Y to be the case, then X should be the case" turns the whole moral part into a rational weighing of options.
for instance:
"killing is bad" - this is a categorical imperative, since it portrays some transcendent objectivity which we should all bow to without any reasoning. "killing is bad" is just as meaningful as "I dislike killing". Neither are propositions (statements that are either true or false) nor are they falsifiable, even if they would be inherently true. They're simply emotive. They show a preference, a sense of 'taste', let's call it.
So instead of claiming such an unstable statement, I prefer to think in ways of the Hyp. Imp. I suggested in the first line of my post; "if you do not want any negative consequences from society, or repercussions from agressive gang members, or ... , then do not kill" since it is very likely that you will get caught or that there will be a reaction of some kind, which you most likely won't prefer.
This also sideswipes the problem of exceptions, the problem of when we do or do not allow X. We are allowed to kill in self defense, but only because the other party wasn't allowed to kill in the first place and many more complicated reasons. If you reason in by the Hyp. Imp. -structure, you simply get something similar to "If you do not want to go to jail, then don't kill, unless your child is in danger of being killed."
this creates clear boundaries, without implying any transcendent objectivity ("morality") and without harming anyone who believes in such nonsense (literally speaking - no offence intended).
Ideally speaking, of course, since the whole topic is in such a sense. Practically, this would be more troublesome than counting every grain of sand on earth.
Clearly you are further in philosophy then me, probably why I miss your point.
"killing is bad" or "killing is good" hold the same value for you, it is only a statement of preference, yet all your if ... then ... constructions seem to support the former.
Why not the latter? If you want to have pleasure of killing people without going to jail then make certain you do not get cought.
The trouble in the effort to work these If ... then ... constructions out in a full logical analysis, eliminating value statements, does not make it impossible. With value statements eliminated logical reasoning becomes irrefutable, it becomes a "transcendent objectivity". Your If.. then .. statements can be transformed in a set statements that are either true or false. This would be a general part of the moral, but we are back at the "do Natural Rights exist?" thread.
1) I repeat here: If you do not believe in individual freedom then you are right. A moral makes no sense since you do not have to make choices, they are made for you, it is dogmatic.
2) There are some If...then... statements where you can not eliminate the value statements, this is a variable part of moral a part that comes on top of respecting Natural Rights, it is your culture.

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Re: Is morality a bad thing?

Postby Thrasymachus » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:21 am UTC

The Categorical Imperative:

Reason, upon reflection upon the nature of the Will: I have determined the objective law according to which the Will must act!

Will: Oh yeah? What is it?

Reason: To do what I say!

Will: Really. And what do you say?

Reason: I haven't figured that out yet, get back to me when I have better data, I'll let you know when you have a question. But in the meantime, I should tell you that my brothers Instinct, Habit and Passion sometimes like to masquerade as me, and they might tell you to do things that I wouldn't approve. I'll look at them when I have time. It's up to you to overcome them. I'll leave clues in my missives, but they'll be subtle, and easy to miss, and sometimes I don't have all the information either. Just so you know, I take no blame for this, but a Moral Wrong will still have been done, so that's all on you buddy.

Will: Gee, thanks.

Will: Didn't the ancient Greeks figure this out like 2300 years ago?


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